Page 61 of I Promise You

“Sorry I’m not vomiting.”

I bite my lip. “This was your idea.”

“I need you to drive me home, cook dinner, and make ice packs. Do you have any frozen peas? Also, I might need a shoulder rub.” He hobbles closer. “Will you take care of me?”

Oh, Dillon. My breath hitches. He meant it in jest, but I wonder if anyone really ever takes care of him?

“He’s milking it!” Sawyer bellows. “Dude stuffs socks down there every day—today’s no different.”

“I did wear a cup to paintball, this is true, but it still hurts.”

Sawyer hands Dillon a plastic, golden trophy of a woman with a bowling ball. She’s scratched up and faded. “This should make you feel better,” he tells Dillon.

When I ask Sawyer where it came from, he tells me it belonged to his granny. She loved bowling and won several championships. “That’s why we had to get the trophy back this year.”

Dillon, the color coming back to his face, holds it high. “Offense today, boys! LSU this weekend!”

Whoops sound from the players.

I hook my arm through Dillon’s. “Come on, let’s get you home.”The house is quiet when my eyes open. It’s two in the morning, and I lie here trying to figure out what woke me. Straightening my camisole and sleep shorts, I tiptoe into my den and take in the large man on my couch: currently sound asleep, one leg thrown down on the floor, an arm over his face. A deep breath comes from his chest. The quilt I gave him hours ago has slipped down, and my eyes track the contours of his pecs, the red roses there.

Last night, before we hit the city limits of Magnolia, Dillon changed his mind about going home and had me drive to my place instead of his. Sawyer and the guys were planning to have people over to celebrate the win, and Dillon didn’t want the company.

He moves in his sleep, settling into the couch. One of his ice packs, now water, plops to the floor, and I pick it up. I felt absolutely terrible about injuring him, but he assured me his cup prevented a worse injury. However, he did insist I cook spaghetti and play Five Nights at Freddy’s with him, a survival-horror video game he downloaded on my laptop. It’s not bloody or gross but was engineered to scare the shit out of people. Set in a haunted pizza parlor like Chuck E Cheese, the evil animatronics (Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Chicken, and Foxy the Pirate Fox) want to kill the player. They killed me a lot. Later, after some giggling, we found a movie to watch. I suggested Pitch Perfect—Chantal totally looks like the blonde chick. He begged for Shaun of the Dead, a campy zombie movie. I agreed.

Halfway through the movie, conked out on Aleve and exhaustion, he pulled me down to lie next to him. I thought he might kiss me again—I wanted him to—but he tossed a muscular arm around me then promptly fell asleep. For an hour, I lay there, enjoying the feel of his body, his rhythmic breaths, the scent of his skin. Finally, around midnight, I got him a quilt and a pillow and headed to bed.

“Serena,” he murmurs. “Come here.”

I start, not sure he’s fully awake. Walking over to him, I sit lightly on the edge of the coffee table. “You feel better?”

“Mmmm, had a nightmare. The Titanic was sinking, and we were on it. I tried to save you, but Freddy and Bonnie showed up to eat me. So weird…” His eyes flutter open then close. His chest rises, his full lips parting.

“Good to know,” I muse, “that I’m part of your nightmare.”

I tug the quilt up, my fingers grazing his hand as a sigh comes from me. He’s so heartbreakingly beautiful. With one last look, I stand up and force myself to walk away, trying to remember that beautiful things are hazardous to my heart…17Tomorrow is game day, and I’m tense. This is our first big game against a ranked team.

“Morning, boys!” the quarterback coach calls out as Sawyer, Troy, and I pile out of the Escalade at the private airfield a few miles from campus.

“Holy fuck, that’s a big plane,” Sinclair mumbles as we walk up. He’s got a queasy look on his face. “I’ve never flown before.”

“Not even when you came to school?” I ask.

“Bus brought me.” He rolls his shoulders, hitching up his duffle. “And before you ask, I’m not scared. You?”

“I figure since my bio dad and grandparents crashed in a jet, the odds of me dying on a plane are low.”

He pales. “I forgot about that.”

I get in line as the ramp comes down for us. Everyone is dressed in slacks and button-up shirts, belts, and dress shoes. Coach likes a clean-cut image when we waltz into our hotel in enemy territory.

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